Arroz con leche is hands down a mom thing. Ask around. Much like the chicken soup moms make when you’re sick, arroz con leche is a dish your mom makes when you’ve had a rotten day. Always at night, and always when you least expect it, the scent of cinnamon, cloves, milk and rice drift in the air. Even before you’ve spooned some arroz con leche in your mouth, you’re hit with the warm and fuzzies; completely enveloped in its sweetness and can’t help but forget what went so wrong today.
It’s the Latino mom band aid; our way of figuratively blowing alcohol swabbed over a boo-boo. A way to bring a smile through the tears of the little faces you so adore.
A few days ago my son was feeling down. He had to give up something he was truly, truly attached to. I came home from work to find him tearing up while reading his school book. It broke my heart. I hugged him and said; Arroz con leche for dinner? He gave me a sad smile and said, “OK…”
While I cooked we discussed his loss and what it meant to him; the arroz con leche scents in the background, a silent but potent magic. I smiled, knowing soon his loss would be abated.
By the time he took his first spoonful, he was all smiles. Yes, it may have been our talk, and my many hugs, but I like to believe this simple but delicious dish carries in it a magic that can only be savored but never properly articulated.
Sometimes we moms forget the power of Arroz Con Leche. It isn’t until we are reminded of our own times with our own mothers discussing our bad days over a steaming bowl of love that we are reminded of its infinite power.
Recipe: Arroz Con Leche (rice pudding)
Inspired by the Smitten Kitchen
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1/8 tsp. of lemon zest
- 1/8 tsp. of orange zest
- ¼ tsp. of ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp. of ground ginger
- A healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 can of evaporated milk
- 1 ¼ cup of coconut milk
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 2-3 tablespoons of sugar (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional, but rice pudding ain’t rice pudding without raisins)
- In a heavy 8 quart saucepan, soak the rice, cinnamon sticks, zests, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in 4 cups of water for about 1 hour.
- Once the rice has soaked bring the rice mixture to a boil over high heat, uncovered. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 12 to 15 more minutes or until water is almost evaporated. You should still see some moisture.
- Add the whole, evaporated, coconut and condensed milks to the rice. Stir to incorporate and taste. If needed add the additional sugar one tablespoon at a time to taste ( I usually end up adding about 2 tablespoons)
- Add the salt, vanilla extract and raisins, if using, to the rice and cook over medium-low heat, stirring carefully until it thickens a bit, or until you reached the desired consistency**, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the cinnamon sticks and allow to cool. Serve and enjoy!
I eat arroz con leche while it’s still hot, but cold arroz con leche is just as amazing. Rice pudding can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 days.
**Please note rice pudding thickens as it cools, so if you like yours on the thinner side remove from the stove after about 15 minutes.